Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blake's Hero (Part X of the 'Blake Project')

'I am inspired: I act not for myself; for Albions sake
I now am what I am: a horror and an astonishment.' Jerusalem

Throughout the development of his prophetic 'system', Blake continually makes use of the 'author surrogate', or the use of a character that expresses the ideas of the writer himself. For Blake, that surrogate is Los, the fallen reflection of the northern Zoa, Urthona. Los' great labour is, 'Striving with Systems to deliver Individuals from those Systems', and this takes place in the laborious network of his fiery furnaces, the creative depths likened to the metaphysical level of Hell of Jacob Boehme, an alchemist of considerable influence on Blake. Los represents the prophetic, visionary, artistic element in man; he represents man's capability of proper perception, wherein divinity is understood in beautiful, symbolic pictures and dramatic language; in short, Los represents the poetic nature and function of Blake himself.

If we recall Blake's perception of the Fall, how divinity fell along with humanity, we will remember that we are able to see merely a portion of the divine in man; Los, or the imaginative vision or power, is that portion. In The Book of Urizen, Urizen and Los are rent apart, both suffering terrible agony in the sundering; the difference is, while Los eventually recovers from his wound, Urizen never does, no matter how much he tries to treat it with 'measuring' and 'reasoning'; no matter how much Urizen endeavours to 'explore the abyss', his pain and his prolonged death remain irremediable. The significance of this essentially cosmogonic text resides in Blake's insistence on the artistic faculty as the truly divine element in man; Blake does not agree with Plato when he argues against poesis as an imitation of an imitation, or that the poets evoke beauty without realizing its divine source; instead, Blake asserts poetry, or whatever applicable form of poesis, as the sole connection between gods and men that remains standing even today. Los, unlike Plato's poets of the Republic,  is perfectly cognizant of what he is doing, and he demonstrably personifies this connection, this rainbow of 'Bifröst'; 'the swaying road to heaven'.

' proportion as prophecy is more perfect and august than augury, both in name and fact, in the same proportion, as the ancients testify, is madness superior to a sane mind for the one is only of human, but the other is of divine origin... he who, having no touch of the Muses' madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks that he will get into the temple by the help of art – he, I say, and his poetry are not admitted; the sane man disappears and is nowhere when he enters into rivalry with the madman.' Phaedrus, Plato

As the sole surviving 'god' in man, Los is employed in an important, magnanimous function: the resurrection of man to his primordial state. This is hardly the sentimental dreaminess of the naturalist J.J. Rousseau; this is true Christian belief at the heart of the superlative Orthodoxy, wherein resides the supreme doctrine of Jesus' death and his consequent ascension; that is to say, the doctrine of Adam's successful redemption. Labouring at his furnaces and his anvils, Los represents the one side of Boehme's God which lurks in the depths, producing the energic fire; the other side of this God must convert the infernal fire into an ecclesiastical light; in Jungian terms, this is the nominal function of ordinary consciousness when organizing the vastness of the unconscious substrata. In this way, Blake vindicates the fallen world through the very manipulation of it; Los creates prophetic meaning through seeing in the base material of the 'Mundane Shell' a wholly imaginative world, the world which will absolve the crimes of Adam and lift the Christ into spiritual and everlasting authority.

The epic poem Jerusalem portrays Albion, the characterization of both England and humanity itself, as dozy and ignorant of the Saviour's imploring speech; he becomes increasingly slumberous in the state of Ulro, the state of regeneration, eventually dying and traveling 'the passage through Eternal Death'. Throughout the entire work Los is always the sole antagonist against Albion and his terrible sons and daughters, who are also his spectres of a sort. Delving deep in his subterranean furnaces, Los exerts himself tirelessly in his effort to destroy the illusory existence and reconcile man with his emanative aspect; he as well must fight to resolve the conflict that persists between himself and his own emanation, Enitharmon. In an excited flurry of visionary proclamations and prophetic insight into the cold mists of mankind, Los frightens 'the Ghosts of Albion' in hurling his judicial hammer again and again in thunderous fury; 'These are the Demonstrations of Los, the blows of my mighty Hammer'. Los releases an incessant tirade against the fragility of man's manufactured and formless covering.

...Los beheld undaunted furious
His heavd Hammer; he swung it round & at one blow,
In unpitying ruin driving down the pyramids of pride
Smiting the Spectre on his Anvil & the integuments of his Eye
And Ear unbinding in dire pain, with many blows,
Of strict severity self-subduing, & with many tears labouring.' Jerusalem

Thus has Los attained self-mastery, destroying not only the indefinite fragments without, but also the needless portion that exists within. Enitharmon laments that, with Los once again amalgamating into Albion, she will 'vanish for ever', and then Los 'wilt Create another Female according to (his) Will'. Los answers simply, saying that 'Sexes must vanish & cease To be, when Albion arises from his dread repose', meaning that Enitharmon will no longer be a distinct figure in the world of generation, but an integral part of Los himself. Gaining back his emanation, Los makes his final speech: 'Fear not my Sons this Waking Death. He is become one with me Behold him here! we shall not Die! we shall be united in Jesus. Will you suffer this Satan this Body of Doubt that Seems but Is not To occupy the very threshold of Eternal Life'. Albion therefore awakens when time is finished, taking up his golden bow and aligning the Four Zoas in their proper locations, praising Urthona (or Los) for keeping 'the Divine Vision in time of trouble'.

'I care not whether a Man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise Man or a Fool. Go! Put off Holiness
And put on Intellect: or my thunderous Hammer shall drive thee
To wrath which thou condemnest: till thou obey my voice'. The Command of Los

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